Back in February the Michelin Guide announced their 2022 set of accolades, including the newest and best additions which are followed with a keen eye, with their Stars, Bib Gourmand and Green Stars being handed out to restaurants across the globe. This year saw L’Enclume in Cartmel, Lake District, bag itself the highest accolade of three Michelin Stars, becoming only the eighth restaurant to do so in the UK.
But once the awards ceremony was done, the Guide’s inspectors were back out on the road to hunt down some new restaurants which deserve a place in the guide itself. It was revealed the inspectors would be announcing some of their favourite finds each month until the next awards roll around.
April’s picks included two London spots and Zahter in Carnaby was one of them. The Guide said: “Get up close to the action with a seat at the marble kitchen counter or head upstairs for a quieter atmosphere.
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“Cooking is packed with flavour, from the oven-fresh breads to the hot and cold mezze, and the large platters which are great for sharing.
“Accompany these with one of their Turkish wines to really complete the experience.”
Headed up by chef Esra Muslu, whose CV includes a stint at Ottolenghi Spitalfields and time as executive chef at Istanbul’s Soho House, Zahter has brought a taste of Istanbulite cuisine to the heart of Central London. This is the chef’s first solo venture, describing the restaurant as a “love letter” to her native Turkey.
Esra told Carnaby.co.uk: “Opening a new restaurant in London was so out of my comfort zone. Being a female, being a foreigner with English not being my first language and going into a new market is hard, but I know that my team and I can make it.
“My own example shows that it’s about having courage. Everything is possible if you work hard for it. Success and celebrating success shouldn’t be gender-biased.
“In a male-dominated industry, it’s inspiring to see more women joining the business will help change the culture toward gender inequality.”
Zahter’s menu has got you covered from breakfast to dinner. A full Serpme Kahvalti (or Turkish Breakfast) features tomato, cucumber, chilli pepper, wild zahter, olive oil, pomegranate dressing, feta, dill cheese, Izmir tulum, sweet lor cheese, orange jam, quince jam, clotted cream, honeycomb, tahini, grape molasses, walnuts, black and green olives, acuka, AND a bread basket – all for £38.
Other brekkie choices include the popular brunchtime dish Turkish Shakshuka with roasted aubergine and courgette; Menemen (mixed eggs), and Gozleme with spinach and feta. For lunch and dinner there’s a plethora of cold and hot mezze to choose from.
Think Enginar Dolmasi (whole artichoke flower, spiced rice and roasted almonds), Ahtapot Salatasi (baby octopus, samphire and pickled red onion), Karides Guvec (wood oven tiger prawns, garlic Aleppo butter), and Tavuk Kanat (marinated chicken wings, coated with parsley, mint, onion).
Or if you want to check out Esra’s favourite dish on the menu, you’ll have to sample the Kayseri Yaglamasi (pita bread with minced beef, garlic labneh and walnuts). Of course no Istanbulite restaurant would be complete without a little something sweet, in the form of baklava with pistachios.
Even food critic Jay Rayner gave Zahter his seal of approval, so it’s got to be good, right? He wrote of Zahter’s dessert in The Guardian: “It is quite simply the best baklava I have ever eaten.”
So if you’re looking for a true taste of Istanbul, you’ll have to head to the heart of Carnaby to get your hands on it.
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How to get there
Address: 30-32 Foubert’s Place, W1F 7PS
The closest Tube station to Zahter is Oxford Circus, but is also accessible from Piccadilly Circus.